FOR as long as I can remember, English cricket has been crying out for a leg-spin bowler who can be our answer to Australia’s Shane Warne.
It has never happened, of course, for Warne was arguably the greatest bowler to have played the game.
But that has not prevented us from trying to find somebody like him, somebody who can win games for England with the sport’s hardest art.
It has become English cricket’s Holy Grail, the never-ending search for a top-class wrist-spinner.
Ten years ago last month, a chap called Adil Rashid came on the scene.
On his first appearance, against Warwickshire at Scarborough, he took second innings figures of 6-67 to inspire Yorkshire to an innings win.
Since then, Rashid, 28, has taken 447 first-class wickets at 34.71 and scored 6,157 runs at 34.98. Yet he has played the piffling number of three Tests.
Because sub-continental pitches are conducive to spin, Rashid will surely add to that tally on the winter tours to Bangladesh (security concerns permitting) and India.
But that is not the point.
Time and again, Rashid has been overlooked for the Test arena. He is in danger of becoming a wasted talent.
As recently as last week, Rashid was overlooked for the fourth and final Test against Pakistan at the Oval.
The tourists won by 10 wickets to square the series, thanks mainly to a brilliant double hundred by former Yorkshire batsman Younus Khan, but also to a five-wicket haul by Pakistan leg-spinner Yasir Shah in the England second innings.
What England would have given for another spinner as Younus was making hay in South London, where first-choice spinner Moeen Ali’s match figures were 28.5-1-158-2.
Instead, England took the cautious option that has become a trademark of Cook’s captaincy, and which is beginning to damn coach Trevor Bayliss by association.
Asked before the game about the decision not to play Rashid, Cook said: “If we were 3-0 up it might have been different, but the series is very much alive.
“We stuck with Mo because he’s such a valuable member of the side with the runs he has scored, and in the last game (at Edgbaston) he bowled really well.
“Adil is clearly going to get a chance in the winter; he’s still got one-day cricket here to keep that international experience going, and when he gets that chance, he’s got to take it.”
Rashid may not be the perfect bowler, or the finished article by any stretch of the imagination, but can England really afford to overlook a 28-year-old leg-spinner who has taken 447 first-class wickets?
Apparently they can, but it is interesting to speculate how many Tests Rashid might have played had he not had the misfortune to have been born English.
There is no reason why Rashid and Ali cannot play in the same side – Rashid as the first-choice spinner who can bat, and Ali as a top-five batsman who can also bowl spin.
Ali scored 505 runs in the seven Tests this summer at an average of 63.13, figures that towered above all of the other top-order batsmen apart from Jonny Bairstow, Alastair Cook and Joe Root.